Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Offworld Trading Company (Early Access)

I seem to be playing more early access games than I ever expected. Back in March, I discovered Darkest Dungeon, an excellent fantasy/horror game RPG. Today, I want to tell you about another great find: Offworld Trading Company.

Designed by Soren Johnson, lead developer of the massively popular Civilization IV, Offworld puts you in command of a near-future corporation operating on Mars to mine the valuable commodities found there, buy and trade them on the open market, and export them offworld, all for the purpose of buying out your competitors and earning the exclusive rights to the planet. While clearly a real time strategy game, what makes Offworld stand out is that you use money, and not armies, to conquer new territory, expand your holdings, and defeat your competitors. It isn't a game where your success is tied to how fast you can press hotkeys or micromanage your units; instead, the game is all about recognizing the best opportunities while reacting to a market that responds to what's going on in the game, but often not in a totally predictable manner.

Each game of Offworld is different. You start off by scanning the planet for resources, then pick which colony type seems most advantageous and found your colony, trying to beat your opponents to the best spots. Then, it's a land-rush to claim tiles and build infrastructure to pull some initial resources out of the ground. As you grow, you can upgrade your colony, giving you access to even more tiles and allowing you to start manufacturing goods from these raw materials, typically leading to greater profits (but, of course, subject to the whims of the market). At the same time, you also have to manage the black market, where both you and your opponent can take dramatic actions against your enemies by blowing up one of their buildings, shutting down their production with EMPs, or even temporarily taking over one of their claims. Of course, these actions cost you valuable money, that might have been better used expanding your own production.

Finally, once you've secured resources and production, it's time to use your wealth to buy up the stock of your opponent. Even here, the economics play a big role, as each person's stock price is based upon their cash in hand, the value of their assets, and the amount of debt they've accrued. Fall behind, and as your stock price drops, it makes all the easier for your opponents to buy you out. But gain a financial edge, and eventually you initiate a hostile take over of your opponent, taking over their corporation and getting access to everything they had.

Intrigued? While the game still is rough around the edges (it is in Early Access, after all), it is a very fun and engaging game, particularly in multiplayer. Check out the tutorial videos from the designer below, and if you like what you see, purchase it on Steam today. See you next time.

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